WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of Marvel's Runaways, "Kingdom," streaming now on Netflix.
When it was announced in August that Fantastic Four star Julian McMahon had joined Marvel's Runaways, Hulu described his character only as a "pivotal player" in the teens' fight against their parents. However, when the actor finally debuted in this week's episode, it became clear his role is a lot more complicated than that. What's more, "pivotal" barely scratches the surface.
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McMahon's character Jonah is introduced in the opening moments of "Kingdom," in a flashback to 18 years ago, when Geoffrey Wilder (Ryan Sands) was still behind bars, and Catherine (Angel Parker) was merely his tough-talking defense attorney. But a scene that at first appears designed only to shed light on the roots of the conflict between Geoffrey and his childhood friend Darius Davis (DeVaughn Nixon) soon is revealed to illuminate the origins of the Pride itself.
Jonah pays a visit to Geoffrey to offer $5 million for an old strip mall in Compton he inherited from his uncle, characterized by Catherine as "some junk property in South Central." Geoffrey is shrewd enough to know there's more at stake here than gentrification, and offers himself up as a partner. The problem is, he's in prison, and so he turns to Darius with an offer of his own: If Darius will confess to the murder Geoffrey committed, he'll ensure Darius' grandmother, girlfriend and children will be taken care of. Of course, Geoffrey broke that promise, which set up his confrontation with Darius in the Runaways premiere, and the abduction of his son Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) in this episode.
It's much more than that, however, as we realize the property that drew Jonah's interest 18 years ago is the same one that's so important to the Wilders and to the Pride in the opening episodes of the series. But while "Kingdom" doesn't solve the mystery of the former strip mall, it does reveal who McMahon's character is. Well, mostly.
Jonah, it turns out, is the mysterious husk of a man that Leslie Dean (Annie Wersching) has kept on life support, hidden away in her high-security meditation room at the Church of Giborrim. The Pride's annual sacrifices, including the bungled ritual in the series premiere, are intended to restore his vitality, although it remains unclear why Jonah had withered away. But in this week's episode, after missteps caused by Victor Stein's hallucinations and a feisty homeless man, the Pride actually does get its hands on a sacrifice, which fully revives Jonah.
If we thought the frail man might be Leslie's sainted father, the late founder of the Church of Gibborim, the scene in last week's episode in which she disrobed and crawled into bed with him likely disabused that notion. (At least we hoped that they weren't father and daughter.) In the final moments of "Kingdom," it becomes clear, as they're fully reunited, that Jonah and Leslie are lovers, and maybe more. "When I was laying here, my biggest fear wasn't dying," he confesses to Leslie, "it was that I might die without ever having looked into her eyes. I want to meet her!"
We can likely assume "her" is Karolina, which would suggest Jonah is the teen's biological father. If that's the case, then does that mean Leslie used husband Frank Dean (Kip Pardue), the former teen star, not only to help legitimize the Church of Gibborim, but also to explain her pregnancy? As big as those questions are to the Dean family dynamic, however, they're hardly the most important to the series.
For instance, what is Jonah, an alien? His visit to Geoffrey Wilder 18 years ago with a deal that was too good to pass up has an undeniable Faustian ring. That Jonah is at the epicenter of not only the Wilders' plans but the Pride's indicates he's key to their ultimate goals. Why else would they risk so much to secure sacrifices for his benefit?
In Marvel Comics' Runaways, the six couples who would become the Pride struck their own Faustian bargain with the Gibborim, an ancient race of giants that planned to cleanse the Earth of humanity and restore the planet to a paradise. The Pride performed an annual "Rite of Blood," and in exchange the Gibborim bestowed them with wealth and power, and promised that six of its members would rule this new Earth by their sides. It's possible that Jonah is the TV drama's stand-in for the six-fingered giants of the comics, and that he paid similar visits to the other members of the Pride as he did to Geoffrey Wilder.
If so, then is Karolina part of the larger plan, whatever that is? Why has Jonah never laid eyes of Karolina; has he been near death her entire life? And what secret does that old strip mall hide? For every question Marvel's Runaways answers, it raises many more.
Now streaming on Hulu, Marvel’s Runaways stars Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Ariela Barer, Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta, Ryan Sands, Angel Parker, Brittany Ishibashi, James Yaegashi, Kevin Weisman, Brigid Brannagh, Annie Wersching, Kip Pardue, James Marsters and Ever Carradine.